Chasity Kearney

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kearney scores 24 points to lead MCC to championship and NJCAA tourney

By David Landrum
The Meridian Star
Reprinted with permission

CLINTON —      For the first time in the Hilary Allen era, the Meridian Community College Eagles are headed to Selina, Kan., site of the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Former South Panola standout Chasity Kearney scored 24 points as the Eagles defeated the Itawamba Community College Eagles 73-69 in the championship game of the Women’s Region 23 Tournament held at Mississippi College’s A. E. Wood Coliseum Saturday. Norianna Haynes scored 17 points and ReRe Stinner added 11 points for the Eagles (22-10).

“At this level, this is what you work for, “MCC coach Hilary Allen said. “You want moments like this and the feeling of winning a championship.”

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The game started out close as both teams looked to get started early. Down 16-15, the Eagles went on a small run to take a 22-16 lead. The two teams continued to trade baskets, however, MCC increased the lead to 10 late in the first half. The Eagles went into the locker room leading 40-32 at the half. The story of the first half was Kearney. The sophomore scored 20 points in the opening 20 minutes and grabbed nine rebounds.

“I knew I had to step up my game because we were playing for a championship,” Kearney said. “I was able to get some open looks and knocked them down.”

MCC opened the second half by scoring the game’s first four points to increase the lead to 14, 46-32. However, ICC was able to fight their way back as MCC went four minutes without a made basket. The Indians cut the lead to six on a lay-up by Shay Bonner and the game took more of a back and forth approach as both teams ran up and down the floor. A driving lay-up by ReRe Stinner gave MCC a 48-40 lead but ICC scored the next four to trail 48-44 with 13:30 left in the contest. That’s when Haynes came alive.

Only scoring two points in the first half, Haynes erupted in the second half. The Northeast Lauderdale product scored 12 points in the final 20 minutes to pace MCC. Whether it was a basket from the baseline or a free throw, whenever a big play was needed, Haynes made it.

“Those two (Haynes and Kearney) stepped up big for us tonight. Chasity in the first and Anna in teh second half,” Allen said. “They knew how it felt to walk out there and accept that runners-up trophy last year. They were determined no to let it happen again.”

Haynes and Kearney both said there was pressure on them in the game. However, it was expected.

“I knew I had to come out and play hard,” Haynes said. “If i don’t play hard, i feel like i let my team down”

“There was perssure on us for sure,” Kearney said. “However, we knew we could overcome it and lead out team.”

Only up 50-48, Haynes hit a three-pointer to push the lead back out to five, 53-48. ICC responded and tied the game at 53 on a free throw by Vaschatita Bonner. Haynes put MCC back up, 55-53, on a floater in the lane but ICC reponded with two lay-ups by LaPrecious Naylon to take the lead 57-55 with six minutes left in the game. Naylon finished the game with 32 points, 20 in the second half.

“LaPrecious is one of those players that give you everything she has when she’s out on that floor,” Gray said. “She’s a warrior out there.

The Eagles ended the game shooting 43-percent from the floor (28 for 65) while ICC was 39 percent from the floor (27 for 70). The key stat was three point shooting. The Indians shot just 1 for 17 from behind the three-point stripe while MCC was not much better (4 for 23).

“We couldn’t hit shots from the outside. That was our Achilles heel tonight,” ICC Coach Nancy Gray said. “My top two three-point shooters couldn’t hit from the outside.    “Give Meridian credit, they forced us to drive the ball and get lay-ups instead of threes,” Gray added.

As it had yesterday, this game would come down to free throws. The Eagles made eight of their last 12 free throws to protect the fragile lead. Haynes made one of two free throws to give MCC a 73-69 lead with 12 seconds. ICC had a chance a three-pointer by Shay Bonner clanked off the front rim, Kearney grabbed the rebound and the Eagles stormed the court as the buzzer sounded. In the locker room, and emotional Allen addressed his team

“After every win, we tell each other ‘Good Win’,” Allen said. “This one is special because this one is a championship win.”

Meridian improved to 22-10 with the win while Itawamba dropped to 26-3. The loss to MCC was the Indians first loss to a team from the state of Mississippi. Allen said he didn’t know who their opponent would be but it didn’t matter.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do five minutes from now,” a smiling Allen said. “But I do know this, we are champions.”